Tell me about yesterday tomorrow

An exhibition by the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism on the future of the past

November 28, 2019 – August 30, 2020

 

“The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been hidden by the answers.” (James Baldwin)

 

The exhibition titled Tell me about yesterday tomorrow opens up a dialogue between contemporary art and the remembrance work performed by the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism. Works by over 40 international artists explore how to interpret the past and its links to the present day against the background of the historical exhibition. These works, most of them new, invite viewers to consider global realities of life while supplementing German History with international perspectives and creating polyphonic narratives of the past and future. Through the media of painting, photography, installation, video, and performance, artists from different generations, from the Nazi period to the present day, convey many-sided images of history, recounting individual experiences while also highlighting structural connections. The exhibition features selected works of art from the Nazi period and recent decades alongside new works created specifically for this context. 

 

Historian John Henrik Clarke observed how important history is to our present and future: “History is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is also a compass that people use to find themselves on the map of human geography. History tells a people where they have been and what they have been, where they are, and what they are. Most important, history tells people where they still must go, what they still must be.” (John Henrik Clarke, 1996)

 

Historical events and our knowledge about them shape our understanding of our world today and our notions of what may lie ahead. Collective remembrance is closely linked with our experiences of the present day. This makes it impossible to draw a final conclusion. Instead, history must be reexamined and recontextualized in an ongoing process. It is also important to consider who interprets the past, and based on what experiences. Which stories are told, and whose stories are heard – or end up being suppressed, consciously or unconsciously? How do we deal with different voices and ambivalence?

 

The works of art collected in Tell me about yesterday tomorrow are dedicated to a number of different topics: the resurgence of nationalism, racism, and anti-Semitism; the violent exploitation of humans and the natural world; the cultural and political impact of war, suppression, and trauma; and how national myths are depicted. They testify to how emotions are used to mobilize groups within society, by conjuring up fears and desires and how people are stigmatized as “the Others” while collective narratives are pressed into the service of political ideologies. The exhibition’s international perspective reflects the global dimensions of these critical occurrences.

 

Fostering a culture of remembrance is crucial to the future of our democracies. It creates awareness not only of the historical conditions that have led to exclusion, degradation, and destruction, but also of our responsibility for ensuring that these processes – created and influenced by people – do not repeat themselves. Now, with right-wing populism and autocratic and fascist tendencies once more on the rise worldwide, reflecting on history is more important than ever. The goal is to develop visions of an open, social way of coexisting based on historical experiences while pointing to the positive values that have arisen since the dictatorship was overthrown – a type of potential that Hannah Arendt called the greatest and most fundamental human capacity: the ability to reconsider, rethink, and create something that has never been before.

 

Rooted in close cooperation between the fields of art and history, Tell me about yesterday tomorrow addresses the complexity of historiography and offers an opportunity to consider Germany’s past in the context of international developments. As one avenue of political thinking, art supplements historical remembrance work and offers reflections on the meaning and future of shared international remembrance.

 

Looking back becomes a way of looking ahead. This approach points to what once was and to what may yet be – not to create a simplistic equivalence between historical and current events, but instead to foster awareness of where the similarities lie and what we can learn from historical experience. Thus the exhibition does not offer a self-contained, linear treatment of its subject, but rather draws a complex picture of past and present realities. It also invites viewers to sense the ambivalences present in human actions, along with diffuse tendencies that do not yet have a clear name. Tell me about yesterday tomorrow creates connections between the past, present, and future to remind us that history has an ongoing impact and we should stay aware so that we can recognize similarities before terrible events can recur.

project team

Director Mirjam Zadoff
Artistic Director Nicolaus Schafhausen
Assistant Curator Juliane Bischoff
Procejt Manager Anke Hoffsten
Project Organisation Sonja Eschenbach
Production und Technics Michael Busam, Josef Köttl, Jürgen Goligowski, Ibrahim Özcan
Architecture Buero Kofink Schels: Simon Jüttner, Sebastian Kofink, Markus Stolz
Design Boy Vereecken und Antoine Begon
Press and public relations Kirstin Frieden, Ilona Holzmeier, Thomas Zörr
Education Nathalie Jacobsen, Dirk Riedel, Thomas Rink, Elisabeth Schulte
Audioguide Nils Emmerichs, Bernhard Jugel

Contributors Nils Emmerichs, Andreas Eichmüller
Media partner Deutschlandfunk Kultur
Partners Benediktinerabtei St. Bonifaz München, Kulturreferat der Landeshauptstadt München, Programm „Kunst im öffentlichen Raum“, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau München, Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte München
Funded by Kulturstiftung des Bundes

 

Acknowledgments We thank all artists, partners, lenders, and supporters who contributed to the success of the project through their creative involvement and generous support.

 

 

pressestimmen

„Diese Gruppenausstellung ist eine der besten, die in den letzten Jahren in München zu sehen war“

Kann Kunst die Erinnerung an den Nationalsozialismus bewahren? von Martin Zeyn in Bayerischer Rundfunk, 28. November 2019

„Die Ausstellung Tell me about yesterday tomorrow konfrontiert die Geschichte des Nationalsozialismus mit Kunst – sie ist überraschend und wegweisend.“

NS-Dokumentationszentrum: Wie zeitgenössische Kunst die NS-Geschichte erzählt von Jörg Häntzschel in Süddeutsche Zeitung, 30. November 2019

Tell me about yesterday tomorrow ist eine starke Botschaft des weltoffenen München, in dem kein Platz für Rassismus und Fremdenhass ist.“

Die Schau "Tell me about yesterday tomorrow" im NS-Dokuzentrum von Roberta De Righi in Abendzeitung, 2. Dezember 2019

curators

Photo: Emily Gorner Shorefast

Nicolaus Schafhausen is a german curator and director.  Since 2011 he has been the Strategic Director of Fogo Island Arts, Canada, an initiative of Shorefast. chafhausen is the Artistic Director of Tell me about yesterday tomorrow and has numerous international exhibitions such as Media City Seoul 2010 and the Dutch Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010. He was the curator of the German Pavilion for the 52nd (2007) and 53rd Venice Biennale (2009), and curator of the Kosovo Pavilion for the 56th Venice Biennale (2015).  In 2019 he stepped down as Director of the Kunsthalle Wien, a position he held since 2012, for political reasons, observing that the future of such cultural institutions was thrown into question by rising nationalist policies in Austria and elsewhere.

Foto: Orla Connolly

Mirjam Zadoff has been Director of the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism since May 2018. From 2014 to summer 2019 she occupied the Alvin H. Rosenfeld Chair in Jewish Studies and Professor of Modern History at Indiana University Bloomington. She studied in Vienna, received her doctorate and qualified as a university lecturer in Munich and held guest professorships and fellowships in Zurich, Berkeley, Berlin and Augsburg. Zadoff is the author of numerous articles and the monographs "The Red Job. The Life of Werner Scholem" and "Next Year in Marianske Lazne. Counter-worlds of Jewish Cultures of Modernity," which are translated into several languages.

Photo: Fabian Frinzel

Juliane Bischoff (*1989 in Meiningen, lives and works in Vienna and Munich) works as curator and writer. From 2016 to 2019 she has worked at Kunsthalle Wien, where she curated the exhibition "Kate Newby. I can't nail the days down" (2018); and co-curated group exhibitions and discursive events such as "How to Live Together" (2017) and "Political Futures" (2018). Other institutions she has worked for include Kunsthalle Basel (2012), and Ludlow 38, Goethe-Institut New York (2015). She is editor of the publications "Kate Newby. I can't nail the days down" (Sternberg Press, 2019) and "Ineke Hans. Was ist Loos?" (Sternberg Press, 2017) and has contributed to catalogues such as "Hui Ye. Keep Me Close to You" (Sternberg Press, forthcoming), "Olena Newkryta. folding unfolding refolding" (Sternberg Press, 2017) and 2015 (edit. by Vivien Trommer, MINI/Goethe-Institut Curatorial Residencies Ludlow 38, 2015).

 

Tell me about yesterday tomorrow

An exhibition by the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism on the future of the past

November 28, 2019 – August 30, 2020

 

“The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been hidden by the answers.” (James Baldwin)

 

The exhibition titled Tell me about yesterday tomorrow opens up a dialogue between contemporary art and the remembrance work performed by the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism. Works by over 40 international artists explore how to interpret the past and its links to the present day against the background of the historical exhibition. These works, most of them new, invite viewers to consider global realities of life while supplementing German History with international perspectives and creating polyphonic narratives of the past and future. Through the media of painting, photography, installation, video, and performance, artists from different generations, from the Nazi period to the present day, convey many-sided images of history, recounting individual experiences while also highlighting structural connections. The exhibition features selected works of art from the Nazi period and recent decades alongside new works created specifically for this context. 

 

Historian John Henrik Clarke observed how important history is to our present and future: “History is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is also a compass that people use to find themselves on the map of human geography. History tells a people where they have been and what they have been, where they are, and what they are. Most important, history tells people where they still must go, what they still must be.” (John Henrik Clarke, 1996)

 

Historical events and our knowledge about them shape our understanding of our world today and our notions of what may lie ahead. Collective remembrance is closely linked with our experiences of the present day. This makes it impossible to draw a final conclusion. Instead, history must be reexamined and recontextualized in an ongoing process. It is also important to consider who interprets the past, and based on what experiences. Which stories are told, and whose stories are heard – or end up being suppressed, consciously or unconsciously? How do we deal with different voices and ambivalence?

 

The works of art collected in Tell me about yesterday tomorrow are dedicated to a number of different topics: the resurgence of nationalism, racism, and anti-Semitism; the violent exploitation of humans and the natural world; the cultural and political impact of war, suppression, and trauma; and how national myths are depicted. They testify to how emotions are used to mobilize groups within society, by conjuring up fears and desires and how people are stigmatized as “the Others” while collective narratives are pressed into the service of political ideologies. The exhibition’s international perspective reflects the global dimensions of these critical occurrences.

 

Fostering a culture of remembrance is crucial to the future of our democracies. It creates awareness not only of the historical conditions that have led to exclusion, degradation, and destruction, but also of our responsibility for ensuring that these processes – created and influenced by people – do not repeat themselves. Now, with right-wing populism and autocratic and fascist tendencies once more on the rise worldwide, reflecting on history is more important than ever. The goal is to develop visions of an open, social way of coexisting based on historical experiences while pointing to the positive values that have arisen since the dictatorship was overthrown – a type of potential that Hannah Arendt called the greatest and most fundamental human capacity: the ability to reconsider, rethink, and create something that has never been before.

 

Rooted in close cooperation between the fields of art and history, Tell me about yesterday tomorrow addresses the complexity of historiography and offers an opportunity to consider Germany’s past in the context of international developments. As one avenue of political thinking, art supplements historical remembrance work and offers reflections on the meaning and future of shared international remembrance.

 

Looking back becomes a way of looking ahead. This approach points to what once was and to what may yet be – not to create a simplistic equivalence between historical and current events, but instead to foster awareness of where the similarities lie and what we can learn from historical experience. Thus the exhibition does not offer a self-contained, linear treatment of its subject, but rather draws a complex picture of past and present realities. It also invites viewers to sense the ambivalences present in human actions, along with diffuse tendencies that do not yet have a clear name. Tell me about yesterday tomorrow creates connections between the past, present, and future to remind us that history has an ongoing impact and we should stay aware so that we can recognize similarities before terrible events can recur.

project team

Director Mirjam Zadoff
Artistic Director Nicolaus Schafhausen
Assistant Curator Juliane Bischoff
Procejt Manager Anke Hoffsten
Project Organisation Sonja Eschenbach
Production und Technics Michael Busam, Josef Köttl, Jürgen Goligowski, Ibrahim Özcan
Architecture Buero Kofink Schels: Simon Jüttner, Sebastian Kofink, Markus Stolz
Design Boy Vereecken und Antoine Begon
Press and public relations Kirstin Frieden, Ilona Holzmeier, Thomas Zörr
Education Nathalie Jacobsen, Dirk Riedel, Thomas Rink, Elisabeth Schulte
Audioguide Nils Emmerichs, Bernhard Jugel

Contributors Nils Emmerichs, Andreas Eichmüller
Media partner Deutschlandfunk Kultur
Partners Benediktinerabtei St. Bonifaz München, Kulturreferat der Landeshauptstadt München, Programm „Kunst im öffentlichen Raum“, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau München, Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte München
Funded by Kulturstiftung des Bundes

 

Acknowledgments We thank all artists, partners, lenders, and supporters who contributed to the success of the project through their creative involvement and generous support.